About a month ago, my brother, my cousin and I completed an obstacle course called a Tough Mudder. There’s a high possibility you’ve heard about one of these great events, they’re increasingly popular, but on the off-chance you haven’t, go look up their website here. It’s a seriously incredible experience, one I will never forget and one I can’t wait to have again. You may have noticed I didn’t call it a race, which I did before we completed it. Mudder Nation (yep, that’s what they call themselves. I definitely drank the kool-aid) is adamant that Tough Mudders are not races, but challenges to be completed. A challenge it is most certainly. But it’s not a race, it’s not about your time, not about who wins, it’s all about finishing and helping other people finish. I’m a big fan of their outspoken code of honor and camaraderie.
This thing isn’t for the faint of heart though. It took us a long time to finish, a little over five hours if I remember correctly. The blood, the sweat, the bruises, the ambulances that sometimes carry people off the course are all real things. But have I said yet that I loved every minute of it?! Because I did. Obstacle after obstacle, mile after mile, there was a new challenge waiting for us. There were opportunities everywhere to face a fear, to say yes and just go for it, to do something new and see what you really are capable of.
At the very beginning of the race, there is this dude. I cannot even remember his name, but I remember everything else. His loud, booming voice. His presence, which truly felt like electricity in the air. His passion for his job and for the people he was with. His love, for Tough Mudders and for what they bring out in people. Anyways, this dude is the guy you meet when you get over that first wall (the race hasn’t even started yet….you have to get over the wall to get to the start line). He gathers you all up and he starts out into this inspiring and motivational speech, but I promise you are captivated with every word. His intensity is serious. His joy and excitement are super contagious. He inspires you with stories of previous Mudders he’s met. One of the most memorable things he talks about is one particular Mudder, who was diagnosed with cancer. This guy apparently didn’t let that diagnosis slow him down, he instead chose to look at life and see all the opportunities that were before him. The speaker who is telling you this story, with emotion and his same intensity as before, says, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?“. He goes on to say that his friend, who had cancer, lived with the mindset of “Do something for the first time every week.” Do something you have never done before. The speaker says that he talked to his friend’s mom one day and she said that her son had taken the engine out of a car and then gone inside to bake a cake, two things he had never done before. Speaker dude pumps you up. You get excited, especially if it’s your first TM. He goes on about how TM is not just about that day, out there on the course. It’s about when you get back home, what kind of person are you going to be? Are you going to be the one who is worried about their course time or are you going to be the one who stops to help others finish the race too? Are you going to look at something new and say yes and just go for it? Are you going to see obstacles and challenges ahead of you as problems or new adventures and chances to show what you are really made of? Are you going to let the fear of failure stop you before you ever start?
Yesterday, a student of mine and I were hanging out playing UNO. She watched me shuffle the cards over and over and she was kind of amazed at my card-shuffling skills (sub-par at best if we’re being honest), but she doesn’t know how to shuffle a deck of cards. So I asked if she wanted to try and she said no, that she would probably make a mess. I didn’t try to persuade her. But after a few games, she started to pick up the cards kind of funny and she said, “Am I doing this right?”. I realized what she was trying to do and I smiled and tried to talk her through it. You have probably shuffled a deck of cards before. You probably don’t even think about it anymore do you? You just scoop them up and bada-bing you are doing something that has become second nature to you. But watching her and trying to teach her yesterday how to do something I know how to do so well was a profound reminder to me. Doing something for the first time can be so hard, no wonder we are all scared of failing. We are all beginners at some point though. I watched her struggle for a long time with these cards. I would gently say, “Keep trying. Practice makes perfect.” Sometimes that’s all we can do. Just keep practicing, keep trying. Learning something new can be a little messy sometimes and that’s okay. Messy can be fun.
I’m going to be really honest, my whole life I’ve been more of a no girl. I think I’ve probably mentioned that I haven’t always been very brave, or very adventurous. I let fear talk me out of lots of things. But this past year, and even a little before that, I decided that I really didn’t want that for my life. I read somewhere one time that we will regret the things we didn’t do in our lives more than the things we did. I’ve grown to love adventures and the fear of something new. That fear is less scary now and more an exciting kind of fear (adrenaline rush maybe?). I get excited about seeing what I can do or how fun something is going to be. I still say no sometimes. I’m actually listing things off in my head that I’ve said no to recently, but I hope that those no’s turn into yeses pretty soon. I just don’t want to miss an adventure or an opportunity to grow. If I do it and don’t like it, at least I did it right?
Here’s to new things. To the things that scare us. To the things that are waiting for our yeses. It doesn’t have to be big, or even scary, but do something new. It’s a seriously beautiful Friday. Don’t wait for someday, do something for the first time today. Then live your life that way. Say yes to opportunities more than you say no. Happy Friday!
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